Just in the last few years, we've seen a surge in companies experimenting with plastics derived from sugarcane. Procter & Gamble, for example, began using sugarcane-based plastics for some Pantene Prov-V, Covergirl and Max Factor products. Heinz also said a few months ago that it would license The Coca-Cola Company's PlantBottle technology for use in its ketchup packaging.
Sensing a market opportunity, Dow Chemical has launched a joint venture in Brazil to make bioplastic using ethanol made from sugarcane, we reported last month. The company claims it can do this at a competitive price-point.
Now we can add AT&T to the list. The telecommunications giants said yesterday it will begin using sugarcane-based plastic in packaging for its branded wireless accessories, such as cell phone cases and power cords that hit the shelves beginning Oct. 2. As much as 30 percent of the packaging will come from ethanol made from sugarcane.
The company has also been working to use less packaging for its products. AT&T has avoided more than 500 tons of paper and plastic since 2010 as it transitioned to using less packaging for wireless accessories.
AT&T isn't the only wireless company to target cell phone packaging. Its smaller rival Sprint, which is fighting AT&T's proposed purchase of T-Mobile tooth and nail -- has also been working to trim the packaging footprint of its products. It nearly ditched plastic altogether for its Samsung Seek phone, opting instead for paper-based materials made from 90 percent post-consumer recycled paper.
In the case of sugarcane-based plastic, however, AT&T is claiming an industry first. Here's a statement from Jeff Bradley, AT&T's senior vice president for devices:
"We are excited to be the first U.S. telecom company to use this plastic in our packaging and we hope other companies will join us in finding ways to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We are actively working with our accessory suppliers to incorporate both less packaging and more sustainable plastic and paper."
Image courtesy of AT&T.